When I entered FD Gallery, I was convinced I was walking into a bakery - drawn in by the delectable trays of pastries and beguiling tarts in the window. Only after I saw a dazzling array of gold and jewels did I realize that this was, in fact, an estate jewelry gallery. The painted cakes in the window were a display for the necklaces and brooches carefully exhibited around them. "We all have an affinity for sweetness, " Thomas Tolan, the gentleman who greeted me, laughed when I told him my mistake. He explained that the displays, which change every six to nine weeks, are meant to be fantastical: "We feature a lot of animal motifs and pieces of whimsy that transcend fine art. "Thomas went on to tell me that FD are the initials of the gallery's founder, Fiona Drukenmiller, a woman who had a successful career on Wall Street, but who left finance to raise her three daughters. When her youngest went off to school, Fiona decided to return to work. Recognizing that her passion and knowledge lay in estate jewelry - as she had amassed her own personal collection of jewelry over the years - she set out on a new career path. Thomas said that FD has a much understated business model, and that having a side street location allows for the anonymity of their clients. The gallery does very little advertising and relies on word of mouth. Perhaps because of this, FD provides excellent customer service. The staff essentially work as a concierge, welcoming people and tracking any items that are of interest to them. The pieces are all curated by time period and material. Although the jewelry was magnificent, and several pieces had interesting histories, I was particularly fascinated by a ruby Buddha that Thomas said dates back to fifteenth century China. It was evident that Thomas was passionate about his position at FD. This is definitely a "gallery as opposed to a jewelry store, " however, each item is meant to be used and appreciated. As he put it, "A piece of art like this should be worn and enjoyed. It would be sad to see it locked away in a safe. " He went on to say that he often gets attached to something, and then feels a special bond with the person who ends up purchasing it. In addition to the Cartier and sparkling Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry in the front of the boutique, there are rare books and other vintage items in the back, along with an espresso bar laden with treats. I was getting ready to step back outside when Thomas, full of smiles, confirmed my suspicions, saying "It really is fantastic to work here. Fiona is a remarkable woman. " And it was only a few days later while riding the subway that I looked up and spotted an advertisement for the upcoming AIDS Walk. Along with the corporate sponsors listed, there was one solitary individual donor: Fiona Drukenmiller. I was so pleased, not only to recognize her name, but to see that she is truly a philanthropic, altruistic, whimsical woman.
There was no question that Ellie Mendelsohn would stand behind the glass booth with her father, Hank, on 47th Street once she completed her college education. Her grandfather, who had introduced his son and granddaughter to the world of gold and jewelry, had retired to Florida, and now it was Ellie’s time to join the family trade. “The jewelry is my favorite part of the business, so I said, ‘Why not start my own line? ’” The first piece Ellie ever made was a pair of earrings, based on a necklace that her father had made for her mom. “I loved it so much, I decided to create earrings. ” Indeed, for those who work in the Diamond District, jewelry is much more than an accessory — it is a time-honored link to one’s heritage and family.
Maison 10, an exciting and innovative gallery and boutique project from the minds of co-founders Tom Blackie, Henri Myers, and Carsten Klein, opened in June 2016. For the trio of founders, ten is the magic number, as the space operates in ten-week cycles, each centered on ten featured works by a particular artist, alongside ten different product categories, each with ten carefully selected items. Customers can also choose one of ten different charities to which ten percent of the proceeds of their purchase will be donated. Maison 10 combines the founders’ shared love of art, culture, and philanthropy. Despite its bare bones appearance, the storefront is bound to catch the pedestrian eye, or perhaps first their nose with sage burning out front. When Manhattan Sideways stopped by, the wall on the side of the building featured a striped mural, which we learned is repainted every ten weeks by the newest featured artist. The shop is minimally decorated with white display tables showcasing a colorful array of products. It is clear that the room is meant to be rearranged every ten weeks, and that the items on display speak for themselves. The window display rotates even more frequently, changing daily at four pm. “It’s all about engaging with customers. We like to keep it fresh, and the opposite of formulaic, ” Tom remarked with a laugh. The only constant presence in the store is the large statue of a gorilla sitting in the back corner, overseeing the boutique. The founders’ wide range of backgrounds and experiences give Maison 10 the worldly quality it effortlessly seems to possess. Henri, who is originally from New York but has spent quality time in Los Angeles, has spent most of his professional career working in fashion marketing and branding development, attending trade shows, and cultivating a keen sense of taste. Tom, who hails from Scotland, cut his teeth working in the London non-profit sector, learning the intricacies of how charitable institutions operate. Carsten, who is of German origin, is the visual thinker of the group, working mostly in typography, packaging, interior and web design. The three have each made New York their home and describe their shop as “a mixture of all our worlds put together. ” By combining their skills of curation, altruism, and design, these men have created a space dedicated to ethical consumerism. So, why ten? In addition to being a good number for design and numerology, ten has a nostalgic connection for the team. “When all three of us were teens, growing up in our different cities, we were music freaks, and we would run to the record stores every week to keep track of the top ten charts, ” Henri recalled. Similarly, the diverse selection of gifts, fine art, and lifestyle items ranging from candles and books to handmade jewelry appears to be the best of the best. “With only ten categories and ten products, we’ve already pre-selected the best items, and they all have a story, ” Henri noted as he moved between a fruit bowl made from copper and walnuts to a bag made from authentic Japanese satin. “It mostly comes down to personal taste. These are the things we love and feel should be on everyone’s radar. It’s about introducing the customer to an experience one on one. We want to bring back shopping. ” Henri mentioned how important it is that Maison 10 offers products at a wide range of prices, so as not to alienate any potential customers, “We wanted to make it so that you could come in and find a $15 book, a $600 bag, or even a $7, 000 piece of art. ”Nine out of the ten charitable organizations to which the men donate remain fixed throughout the year. The tenth changes with the cycle and is chosen by the designer. The fixed charities are mostly found through personal connections thanks to Tom’s work experience in the non-profit world, and thus are largely New York- and London-based. The impressive list contains local favorites like Housing Works, which is dedicated to fighting the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS, and SAGE, which supports LGBT elderly nationwide. There are also world humanitarian causes including Orange Babies, an Amsterdam-based organization that advocates for HIV positive pregnant women throughout Africa. The Manhattan Sideways team visited right around the first anniversary of Maison 10's opening, and Tom was pleased to report that the business was doing well after its first year. “It keeps getting busier and busier; people love the concept and we’ve definitely gained some super fans who come in every two or three days. " The founders told us that many people who live in the vicinity come in on a regular basis to introduce the shop to their friends. The men are thrilled that they are on their way to becoming a "strong community" - "We believe in our project and we believe that it’s good for the street too. ” They have already collaborated with their neighbors, such as Yeohlee Teng, whose work was featured during a cycle. The team is also working directly with designers on future products, including an original fragrance by Henri himself. Events are a regular part of Maison 10's cyclical process, with launch and closing parties every ten weeks that boast several hundred guests over the course of the night. Additionally, the shop hosts “Friday Night Live” which features five of the designers and five display islands organized by category. These provide an opportunity for customers to interact with the artist or designer, adding a personal touch to the consumer experience. At each of these events, Tom, Henri, and Carsten can be seen in their signature black jumpsuits.
Jill Herlands defines herself as a “jewelry artist, ” rather than a designer. “I believe a designer creates up until production. I am an artist. I conceptualize, produce- everything else that goes along with it. ” By staying true to her own, unique artistic vision, teaching herself how to create jewelry, and continuously expanding the bounds of her expertise, Jill has built up an entirely distinctive brand that has become widely celebrated and exhibited nationally. Jill had always loved to take apart jewelry and reassemble it in strange ways, but only started creating jewelry in 2014. For most of her adult life, Jill was in the music industry, but stopped her career to raise her daughter. When her daughter went off to college, Jill decided “it’s time for something for me to do that’s exciting - it’s time for me to do something for myself. ” She began by buying a small torch and teaching herself how to solder. Jill’s decision to become a jewelry artist was almost instantaneous, “the minute the flame hit the metal, I thought “this is it. ”” She set up a little desk in a corner of the kitchen and “just started creating. ” She did not intend to start a business originally, and simply created for her own joy. Once she had amassed a large body of work and began to post on Instagram, she quickly sparked interest in the jewelry world due to her designs that were unlike anything else. She was often told she would not succeed, since her work was too atypical, but continued nonetheless. Building up a following through her unique creations and by responding to every comment and cultivating relationships, Jill realized the interest surrounding her jewelry was real, and created her business in response. And, she continues to respond to every comment on Instagram, and “has made real friendships” through social media. Jill’s jewelry style is “edgy, avant-garde, and a mixture of feminine and masculine, ” and she specifically likes it to have “a worn-in look. ” As an example, she stated “I will use pearls, but I will mix it with a distressed metal. ” Although self-taught, Jill professed that “I can’t imagine not doing this - it’s like second nature to me. ” Jill draws inspiration from a variety of sources, including the “rock and roll vibe” from the talent agency where she used to work, her imagination, ruins, construction sites, and raw materials. She has never looked at a YouTube video, and describes her continuous learning process as her dedication to “risk taking. ” Beginning only with the knowledge of how to make a ring band and how to solder, she experiments extensively with every material she works with in order to test how it melts, how to achieve certain effects, new ways for the metal to hold gemstones, and what specific heats are best for each material. Jill is always looking for new materials to incorporate, and is particularly known for using concrete in her designs as well as using enamel with her own, original method. She learns from trial and error, but does not strive for perfection, which she views as “a little bit boring. ” She often does not plan her creation concretely before she begins, and if she makes a mistake, will try to incorporate it into her final piece. Staying true to her style, she will “create something and then melt it, or make holes in it, or make the edges sort of burnt, ” morphing her work as she goes along. Even as the demand for her pieces grow, she still experiments in order to expand her options and grow as an artist. When Manhattan Sideways sat down with her in the summer of 2019, Jill told us that she was currently teaching herself how to crochet with gold. Everything is made by her hand, everything is one of a kind, and she believes that her jewelry is “an extension of the wearer. ” She ascertains that “each piece that I make is guaranteed to be an heirloom that you can hand down to your children and grandchildren. ” Jill has ample opportunity to craft jewelry to individually express the wearer, since almost all of her business is custom work. Whether clients ask for a piece in the style of one they were particularly drawn to on her Instagram, want her to melt down and completely recreate a piece of their old jewelry, or have any other inspiration, Jill will take as much time as needed to connect with the client and learn about them so that she may personalize the piece. Jill is especially pleased that a large percentage of her clients give her creative control, trusting her vision completely. In the future, Jill hopes to stay a niche brand with each piece being one of a kind, but to also be known globally. Although her entire workplace consists of a small room in her apartment in Hell's Kitchen, and the only help she receives is administrative, Jill describes her studio as her “little place of heaven. ”
I have discovered many fascinating places while walking on the side streets of Manhattan. I am sorry to say that I did not look up to see Belly Dance America when I initially walked on West 37th Street. It was not until a few years later that I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Hanna and Jehan, the wonderful couple behind the place that has been hailed as the center for all belly dance needs. As it is the first and only store of its kind in New York City, located on the second floor, it has definitely cornered the market. For anyone passionate about the art of belly dance, or for those who are only getting started, there is just about anything that one could want in this shop. It is more than just a belly dance store. Belly Dance America is a love letter to the passion and culture of the Middle East, paying homage to the richness of history and music that so often gets overlooked these days. As I walked into their shop, I was greeted by the sound of a breeze sneaking its way through an open window to rustle the costumes within, announcing its entrance with the soft jingling of the coins on the bottoms of the skirts. Every costume is made with a unique attention to detail. Some are imported and some are made right there in the shop, designed and assembled by Jehan’s husband and co-owner, Hanna. The costumes that are imported are made especially with the diverseness of the human body in mind, made by designers who know how to fit it perfectly. Even still, Jehan and Hanna take an honest approach to the sale of each item. “If something doesn’t look good, I’m going to tell you, ” said Hanna, “It’s not about making a sale. I’d rather have a loyal customer who comes back and is always happy. ”I found there to be a strong sense of community among the dancers and instructors. Everyone is welcome, whether they are a professional dancer or a hobbyist who is just starting out. It is never about competition, just the mutual enjoyment of a beautiful art. “The good thing about belly dance is that it welcomes all sizes, all body types, and all ages. ” In the studio, I watched a group of dancers go through a routine as the instructor, Layla, led. While standing there, I listened to the coins jingling in time with the music and the sound of beads swinging side to side. The ghazal of the singer’s voice wailed from the stereo system in the corner of the studio and the dancers looked very much at peace, some of them smiling, some staring at themselves in the mirror, all feeling the passion and richness of the music down to their very core. Returning to the shop, down the hallway, where Hanna and Jehan were, I commented on what an incredible experience it was for me to witness these women dancing. They smiled and responded, “It makes people happy, ” “the music, the colors, the dance. ”
Bright colors abound inside the semi-covered market on West 116th Street - and it has been this way since 1994 when vendors gathered under one roof to sell their African wares. From traditional fabrics, and handmade clothing, to jewelry, accessories, and wood carvings, to native instruments, the collection at Malcolm Shabazz represents numerous countries including Nigeria, Senegal, Gambia, Ghana, Mali and Kenya. I found the experience to be exhilarating as I strolled through the stalls carrying on conversations with the vendors. There is a true camaraderie amongst them that is palpable.
Walking into Shop Untitled, which features exquisite clothing, chunky crystal necklaces, fierce leather boots, and gloves galore, is like walking into a fashion wonderland. Along the walls there are long black coats with leather spines, a full body piece that looks like something a ninja might wear, and effortlessly hip hooded shirts. “We don’t buy safe things, ” Kevin Kelly said to me, “They end up on the sales rack. We do risky things. They’ll sell the first day. ”Manhattan Sideways had the chance to sit down and talk with Kevin and Gapu Suri who have been partners in the shop since 1983. Kevin informed us that the store was originally located across the street until 2009, when it moved to its current location. After relocating, people thought they were the new kids on the block. “New Yorkers don’t turn around, ” Kevin jokingly said, but then explained that he and Gapu chose to stay in the neighborhood because of their loyal clientele. Young women who shopped here years ago are now mothers who bring their daughters to browse in this haven of chic clothes. As we perused the wares, we learned that Shop Untitled is a place that changes with the times, keeping up to date on all the newest trends - because it has always been for young people. Its racks are filled with the lines of up-and-coming designers. Gapu and Kevin do not carry the same things as other boutiques: they mostly feature smaller designers who prefer to be in a finely curated shop. They are proud that a number of the designers that they represent choose to work exclusively with Shop Untitled. “Customers like being surprised that they’ve never heard of someone, ” Kevin said, adding that it makes them feel unique in a sea of familiar brands. Talking with Kevin and Gapu was a wonderful experience. They have strong convictions and take great pride in being a launching pad for new designers. “We love what we do – we wake up and love doing it, ” Gapu exclaimed with a big smile on his face. Together, they run the store like a well-oiled machine. Gapu, who moved from India to go the Fashion Institute of Technology, said that he travels to Paris about four times a year to do the buying for the store. He does “tons and tons of research” to seek out new and fashion-forward designers. Kevin has not had any formal training in design, but definitely, as he says, has a “flair for it. ” Decked out in cool, architectural clothing, their aesthetic is evident. The Manhattan Sideways team gave Kevin the impossible task of picking just three designers to highlight. He landed on two edgy, eco-conscious artists: Barbara I Gongini, who makes sure her fabrics and pieces are sustainably attained, and Demobaza with an “end of the world, beginning of the next world” vibe. To round it out, Kevin mentioned the House of Malakai, a company that makes very special face masks that caught the eye of Madonna herself. Rihanna even flew Malakai to New York for the Met ball. Gapu and Kevin have a lot of interaction with the music, film, TV, and theater crowd. Recently, a designer had work featured in The Hunger Games movies after a buyer for the film came by the store. The two men place a heavy emphasis on seeking out new talent. Gapu told us that he is always on the hunt for designers that are “raw and fresh. ” These talented men and women enter into a strong legacy: Shop Untitled carried John Galliano’s and Alexander McQueen’s work straight out of school. In ending our conversation, Gapu announced emphatically that the clothing and accessories that Shop Untitled carries must have “a soul behind the creation. ”